Search and rescue crews say the 77-year-old hiker missing for more than a day and last seen near Comox Lake, in rugged terrain and amid a heat wave, has been found alive.
Comox Valley Search and Rescue (CVSR) was alerted to the missing hiker, Theirry Vrain, around 3:15 p.m. Monday, Aug. 14, when it was believed the man was down in Boston Creek, within Boston Canyon in the Comox Valley.
“It’s a very narrow confined area, with steep terrain on either side,” said CVSR search manager Paul Berry in an interview with CHEK News.
In an update around 2 p.m. Tuesday, North Shore Rescue (NSR), which assisted CVSR in the search, said Vrain was found and hoisted via helicopter.
He was dehydrated, weak and suffering from a leg injury, according to rescue crews. They say he was flown to Courtenay Airpark before paramedics transported him to hospital for treatment.
“It sounds like he did take a fall. He was scratched up and dehydrated but otherwise in good spirits and happy to be out,” said NSR’s Scott Merriman.
Surviving a night in the wilderness
It’s a story of resilience that began Monday afternoon when Vrain was hiking with seven people but separated from the group, says Berry. He recalls the lone hiker being spotted later that night.
“We did have a visual on this fella around 8 p.m. last night via helicopter. And then he disappeared into the trees, and we have not seen him since,” he said at the time.
Berry says search teams worked through the night to locate Vrain without luck. He says seven teams were out on Monday and four on Tuesday.
Along with North Vancouver-based NSR, Campbell River Search and Rescue and the Comox Valley RCMP also assisted in the search.
“RCMP, both air services and police dog services, are working alongside us,” said Berry. “Friends and family have been here at command this morning to meet with the team to see what we have planned and where we are actively searching today.”
On AllTrails.com, the hours-long hiking trail is listed as “hard,” or ideal for advanced hikers.
“Very much so,” said Berry. “Boston Creek does run down to Comox Lake. You would get there through Cumberland or through Courtenay up toward near Forbidden Plateau.”
He says search crews were especially concerned for Vrain’s well-being because a heat warning is in effect for east Vancouver Island, including the Comox Valley.
Search crews described Vrain, a farmer and former North Island College instructor, as highly educated and fit but suffering from poor hearing and eyesight.
Heat ‘a concern for us’
Environment Canada says a prolonged heat wave is affecting the South Coast, where daytime temperatures are reaching 29 to 34 degrees combined with overnight lows near 16 now through Wednesday.
“We’re looking at 30-degree temperatures here in the Valley today. Heat-related injuries are a concern for us,” said Berry. “His age and being out overnight without access to substantial water or food is a concern as well.”
While extreme heat affects everyone, Environment Canada says the risks are greater for older adults and people exercising or working outdoors.
“Heat warnings are issued when very high temperature or humidity conditions are expected to pose an elevated risk of heat illnesses, such as heat stroke or heat exhaustion,” the weather agency says in its warning.
Now rescue crews are happy Vrain is safe.
“The local teams did a really good job of locating him,” added Merriman, “so we were able to come right into his location and take him out where he could be assessed by BC Ambulance.”
And when looking closely, you could even see a smile on Vrain’s face as he’s carried into an ambulance and to hospital — grateful to be in safe hands after surviving through the heat.